Let me give a background so we have rational debate and not get carried away by our emotion and political dispositions.
In or around 2014, I raised the matter of possible Australian military base in Lombrum with the then Australian High Commissioner and their Defence Attaché in the Australian High Commission. I took the initiative as a person originally from Manus thinking about the way forward for Manus and seeing how such a faculty could be good for Manus and PNG as a whole. I asked if they could consider it seriously and equally consider in return allowing our young men and women to serve in their Defence Force so they could acquire skills they need to have a positive pathway in their life journey and also for them to help police and protect our 300 miles Economic Zones. I also raised it with our then Defence Minister and other Ministers who use to attend the joint ministerial meeting with their Australian colleagues. No one took it seriously then.
So why are they suddenly interested to set up a base or post on Lombrum now? Is it because of the needs of Manus Province and whole of PNG?
The USA have been fishing for tuna in and around Manus all these years. They don’t even see Manus as a possible refueling base for their fishing fleet or for processing tuna catch. They have two huge fuel tanks in Lombrum which they build or installed during the world war 2. The Australians have just denigrated Manus in the eyes of the World in order to achieve their immigration policy. They were there at Lombrum but never saw it as a possible base.
So what is the basis of their sudden interest?
All I am saying is, we should be open to discuss other options about Manus base to either develop it jointly as a Naval and Fisheries base or even discuss with China or anyone else for that matter. I have also discussed the other option with the Singaporean Government to use the old World War Two airport which is bigger than the current airport to based their Air Force as Singapore has an Air Force but no air space to maneuver. Chinese shipping to PNG, Australian, New Zealand comes North of Manus and New Ireland and then between New Ireland and Bougainville and into the waters of Milne Bay before going to Port Moresby and to Australia, New Zealand and on to Chile, Peru, Equador and other parts of South America. It would serve their interest. Whatever choice we make must be a win win and not a knee jack self interest like we are now being subjected to.
Since Australia and US showed no interest then, I started talking to the Chinese and Singaporean Governments. I have raised my views in Government caucus in recent times but as the matter is on going negotiation I kept Government protocol in not making public statement on this matter.
Why isn’t Australia doing likewise?
There is no decision yet and no need for them to make the matter public at this stage. PNG cabinet and Parliament have not been briefed.
Australia, US and the west have no moral right to preach to us about take over and trading or dealing with the Chinese.
They are trading and dealing with China at much higher level than us. Even Australia has allowed the Chinese to lease part of land near Darwin to build a airport or seaport. We are been subjected to a lot of stringent conditions that amounts to take over by their institutions like the world bank and IMF.
The public service and Defence Force was severely cut and down sized as a result of the 21 matrix imposed as part of the structural adjustment program the world bank and IMF subjected us to in the 1990s.
We can make decisions ourselves in relation to China. We are a sovereign nation and we can handle this matter ourselves.
*Powes Parkop is Governor of NCD. This piece was borrowed from his Facebook post.